THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Here are some low maintenance garden ideas for busy people…
1) Design well.
For example, don’t do this…
You will spend an age having to drag the mower around awkward corners (straining your back and shoulders while you do so) and then having to strim against walls where the mower blades don’t reach… or worse yet, you leave the grassy tufts, just like in the picture above (and we often see this when we go and meet a client.)
Cutting the grass is the most time-consuming and labour intensive job of the summer. Remove all that grief and get yourself a ‘one-cut-a-year’ meadow. You’ll see the benefits in time immediately.
Organising a space can be hard – save yourself time and effort by getting help from a designer.
2) Have a bigger patio (with less pots)
You only need to sweep a patio to keep it tidy – no cutting, no machinery, no petrol – just grab a stiff broom and away you go!
Do make sure your patio is large enough – garden furniture is bigger than you might think, as is the space you need when lots of people are over and enjoying a barbeque, so scale up. (As a bonus tip: get all of this work done at the start, before you think about the flowers…)
Less pots? Plants prefer to be in the ground. In pots they rely on you to be sensitive to their every need. But the reason you want a low maintenance garden is because you are busy, right? So you can’t put in the effort watering and feeding morning and night… so choose fewer pots, but buy bigger (so the plants have more room to put their roots into) and better quality. Then make sure you fill them up with flowers – a brilliant display of a few flowers makes more impact than lots of half dead plants.
(Another bonus tip for you: in pots, use the best compost you can – not the cheap bags from the garden centre!)
3) Don’t leave soil bare
Bare soil is going to get disturbed, exposing weed seeds to the light. When they get light and water they will germinate. Then you will have to get out there and weed.
It looks rubbish too. If you aren’t sure what to do, or are struggling to get anything to grow, why not try Seedballs – the easiest, lowest maintenance garden product we have ever seen!
4) Plant shrubs
Once established they look after themselves. They cover lots of ground, create useful habitats for insects (as well as providing them with valuable food) and if well chosen offer both flowers and scent to delight us.
Choose well though – ceanothus is wonderful when it flowers, but keep away from laurel, a normal choice offered to clients by unimaginative landscapers. They offer a heavy, dense feeling to a space, so although their waxy leaf helps to soften noise pollution we don’t really like them.
The discerning characteristics of a shrubbery should be something the eye wants to linger on, while providing form in winter when other plants have disappeared below ground.
For more ideas of what to grow see what Dan Pearson had to say.
(And here is a third bonus tip… (can you believe what you’re getting today…?!) Even though shrubs are a low maintenance garden solution, we hope you will be inspired to learn more about them. That inspiration comes from getting your hands on the plant and working with it, seeing how it responds to different weather patterns, the soil it grows in, the way it is pruned. So get out there with some shears and prune it, experimenting with what shapes you can make…)
5) Grow perennial fruit and vegetables
An allotment sounds like a good idea to people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. But let’s face it (and if you’ve had an allotment or attempted to grow your own, you’ll know how this works) you dont have the time to keep yourself in salad 52 weeks of the year.
But you can still have fresh, home-grown produce without all the effort – by planting perennial fruit and vegetables. These are plants that grow every year, so there is no need to prepare seedbeds, pot on seedlings, or hunt for slugs that want to nibble all your efforts.
Start with the fruit – apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and rhubarb.
Then add herbs like lavender and rosemary, before finishing off with asparagus, cardoons, wild garlic and jerusalem artichoke (which is not actually an artichoke, but a member of the sunflower family. Which is another bonus (oh yes) because you can cut the big yellow flowers for a vase. Double your money and not even half the work!)
There you go – a few ideas to get you going. For the more experienced gardener, we might talk about soil amplitude and dynamics, but then you are getting into garden philosophies rather than definite actions you can take, that make a difference straight away.
Happy low maintenance gardening! Have a cup of tea… relax… and read a few of these books for more ideas!
Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …
Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …
Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022